Martin Opitz combines elements of the panegyric and the heroic epic in his Ratispona in libertatem vindicata, an epic poem published in 1633. By means of a narration that adapts and variates the genre tradition, he creates a future-oriented perspective of historical meaning and presents an interpretation of the historical events constituting the war that later came to be known as the Thirty Years War. In so doing, he emphatically raises the claim that the carmen heroicum’s interpretation of history is a proclamation of truth.
In epic poems of the seventeenth century written in German about the Thirty Years’ War, knowledge is set in motion, especially in the context of genre change and shifts in the generic tradition as well as in the conflictive area between fiction and non-fiction. The generic adjustments are partially caused by the transfer of a Greek and Latin genre model into German. This is illustrated by two examples, Martin Opitz’s Trost-Getichte in Widerwärtigkeit des Krieges, first published in 1633, and Georg Greflingerʼs Der Deutschen Dreißig-Jähriger Krieg, published in 1657.
The special issue at hand provides a contribution to the historical exploration of early modern carmina heroica (epic poems) in the German area of the early modern period, especially of the ‘long’ 17th century. To this purpose, perspectives of Latin and German Studies, of researchers with expertise in medieval and modern literary history, are brought together. This introductory article puts the following theses up for discussion: 1) The view that epic poems of the early modern period are a genre with little relevance for the history of literature is wrong and has to be corrected. 2) Accordingly, the view has to be corrected that the history of narrative in the modern era leads teleologically to the modern novel. 3) For the exploration of the history of carmina heroica, the traditions of didactic poems and heroic poems have to be taken into consideration together. 4) Epic poems of the ‘long’ 17th century have a particular tendency to generic hybridization. 5) The genre history of carmina heroica can be reconstructed appropriately only by taking into account the vernacular as well as the Latin tradition.